Every step is an agony. Every breath taken is one closer to my last. Every thought I have circles back to one point, back to the reason that keeps me going even in this fading state.
Just one last time, even if I am to die, I must see him. Just one last time, even if it kills me, I must hold him. Just one last time, before I fade away entirely, I must fight him. I must defeat him, once and for all, and then I will be satisfied. Then I can finally let go.
I stop to lean up against the faded brick façade of the closest building to me, letting my eyes close momentarily, and feel for Yamato. Her energy is like a brilliant star, pulsating with a wordless song that is so close and so very loud, as if she were right behind the wall I am resting against. I double-check, just to be certain it isn't a trick of the mind, then open my eyes and look up. A flickering neon sign that reads Devil May Cry is poised above the entryway of the building I have fortuitously chosen to stop at, and I almost give a snort at the ludicrous name. Instead a coughing fit wracks my body, nearly making me double over as pain lances through me.
It takes several minutes for the coughing to subside, and even longer for the pain to recede to a dulled throb that seeps through every bone, muscle, ligament and tendon in my body. My breath comes out in a rattling wheeze as I force myself to straighten up, gripping at the space between the bricks for support, then slowly make my way towards the entryway. I pause at the foot of the steps, three short ones that may as well be Mount Everest, and stare up at the equally faded double doors. If I can just make it up these steps, make it to Yamato, then I can…
I grit my teeth and climb the stairs with a tight grip on the wrought iron handrail, not even daring to stop when I reach the doors. They are foolishly left unlocked at such a dark hour and swing open at the slightest touch, revealing a near-pitch black space that is decidedly foreboding. I stumble through the doorway and into the yawning abyss right as my body gives out from the exertion. Sharp pain flares through my knees first and then my head when I fail to catch myself.
Everything goes hazy, my vision threatening to fade and a ringing in my ears, and then a familiar and warm scent washes over me. A scent that stirs my demonic blood and has me struggling to cling to consciousness as footsteps thud down a set of stairs and over to where I'm sprawled out. "Dante," I wheeze out and blindly reach out for the source of that scent, for my brother. A sharp inhale sounds over me as my fingers brush against a worn fabric and then it vanishes, my fingers closing around air. Just as quickly, before I can begin to question my own sanity, a warm hand clasps around mine.
"Vergil?" Disbelief. Fear. Anguish. Happiness. Hope. All of those emotions layer over one another in my brother's scent as his other hand comes to grip my shoulder and he pulls me up onto my knees. I can't help the pained gasp that I give at the unexpected movement, causing worry to filter into Dante's scent. "Oh, shit, you're hurt!" He lets go of my hand, but not my shoulder, and pulls off the threadbare cloak I am wearing to inspect me for wounds. He pauses at the sight of me, breath catching in his throat, as the unmistakable scent of tears perfumes the air. "Vergil."
I had only glimpsed reflections of myself maybe once or twice, but I know how unpalatable my own appearance is. Veins blackened, skin cracked and flaking away, my eyes an unearthly glowing crimson, all of me being held together by my demonic energy. I can just barely make out Dante's face in the darkness, roughened by the passage of time and leaving me to wonder just how long it has truly been. I know that I cannot be certain of most things, but I had been…maybe my sanity has left me after all. This could just be a fevered dream or hallucination of some sort, playing out in my final moments.
Dreams and hallucinations are not warm and pulsing with life, however, and Dante is so very warm as he wraps his arms around me and draws me to him. I slump into his hold, face pressing into the crook of his neck where I can sense that pulsing flow of life running through him. Take it, my demon whispers, and I give it no other thought as I latch my mouth onto the tender skin of his throat. My brother goes stiff with a soft gasp and before he can react any further I bite down. His blood fills my mouth and I gulp it down, barely registering the taste that would have made it obvious that there is something very off and very wrong with my twin's life essence. It is tainted with something foul, something that my body rejects immediately and violently. I push away from Dante and barely manage to turn away as the blood comes back up, along with what little bile there is in my stomach.
I can just make out the soft curse that Dante gives as he finally reacts, an arm circling around me to keep me upright. What energy I did have left is spent, my vision swiftly blackening as I succumb to unconsciousness.
Nothingness greets me, all of my senses muted, and I have to wonder if this is what death is like. A vast emptiness, no real sense of self.
This state of almost not-being is shattered as energy pulses through me and I am dragged back into the grips of wakefulness with the taste of blood on my tongue. A cut and bleeding wrist is pressed to my mouth while a hand is at my throat massaging it to force a reactionary swallow. The blood itself is human, potent and laced with a power that feels as if it is revitalizing me.
"He's awake, Dante," a vaguely familiar voice sounds from my side and the wrist is pulled away. My vision doesn't even start to focus enough when the presence, human and female, moves away from me. "You better hope shit doesn't go south again because I'm not donating any more of my blood to him. Not after the shit he put you through. And don't you even think of thanking me for this!"
"Yeah, yeah. I owe ya for this, Lady." Dante sounds particularly exhausted and it shows on his face when it pops into my clarifying field of view. He's been crying. Blood still stains his neck, dried and smelling of whatever foulness taints it.
"And you'll owe me for cutting your utilities back on and getting you caught up on your rent," Lady, if that is her name, mutters as she leaves the room.
"Where…" My voice trails off and I lick at my lips, cleaning away the traces of blood still clinging to them, as I tear my gaze away from Dante's face and try to sit up to take in my new surroundings. He just as quickly pushes me back down onto the bed I've been put in, with just a light press of his hand to the center of my chest.
"You need to rest." There is worry in his voice, his tone soft. "You…it was pretty bad. You're still in pretty bad shape." He looks away from me, lower lip pulled between his teeth and the scent of tears on the air again. "You're dying."
Though for now that imminent death has been held off, if only for a while longer. "I am aware." His gaze flashes back to mine, despair and desperation flickering through those pale depths. "Temporarily undone by the woman's blood." As it should have been undone by his blood, and the realization clicks for him, my brother pressing a hand to the bloodied side of his neck.
"Do you need more? I can get more!" He doesn't wait for a response, just takes off and leaves behind the scent of his tears and the essence of fire.
I have been left to my own devices, it would seem, because his presence and the woman's are both completely gone when I let my senses spread out. Somewhere below Yamato sings her wordless song and I actually find myself pausing at the thought of going to retrieve her. I had been ready to take her back earlier, to use her on myself, but then my brother's face springs up in my mind, with that agonized expression etched into it and there is an indescribably painful twisting in my chest.
So I wait for Dante to return.
TRIGGER WARNING: Blood Drinking
Vergil needs blood, so I robbed a blood bank. I was careful about it, or as careful as I could be while in my Devil Trigger, not wanting to leave any clues about my identity. Sure, I get shit for being reckless and maybe not making the smartest of choices at times but I am far from being the lovable idiot I portray myself as. Lady is probably the only person who really knows me, knows that it's all an act, so she would at least understand why I'm doing this for my brother.
She might not agree, and she might not like it, but she had come through for me in the end when I had called her. She didn't have to give Vergil any of her blood. She could have just let him die but she didn't and I can't possibly even begin to think of a way to thank her. I owe her so much already, none of it to do with money. Without her I would have never survived after that night at Temen-ni-gru…
I almost get caught in a surge of memories and emotions from back then, gritting my teeth as I push them down while I tighten the hold I have on a cooler full of bagged blood. Yeah, I had been in a pretty fucked situation, all of which was Vergil's fault, but he needs me and I can't-I won't abandon him. I need him so damn much that it hurts. So I will do my damnedest to nurse him back to health and to convince him to stay, and if it comes to it I will convince him to take me with him if he has to leave.
And he hasn't left yet despite clearly having the opportunity to do so I realize when I make it back to Devil May Cry. There's an overwhelming sense of relief that comes with the horror of realizing that I had left him by himself in such a fragile state. Yeah, I had been completely aware of Lady taking off, her tolerance for my brother exceedingly low, but I shouldn't have-
"Dante." His voice is surprisingly strong for him being on his deathbed, the commanding tone cleaving through my building panic and guilt. He appears at the top of the stairs, still looking like death warmed over on a very bad day, a hand gripping at the banister for support.
"You should be resting." I take the cooler over to my desk and set it down, popping the lid open with a flick of my wrist. It doesn't really matter which type of blood I grab, all of it will have the same effect for Vergil, so I pluck a bag off of the top. "I got some blood for you. It might not do much, but it'll help." Little by little, until I can get my hands on something better.
"You shouldn't have gone through the trouble." I guess I should be thankful that he's upstairs, still holding onto the banister, and still very much in a state that won't let me go up there and slug him. I want to. Oh, how I want to, because having him here with me is worth it. So for him to say that…
"I'll be right up, so why don't you start dragging your sorry ass back to the bed?" A little bit of my anger seeps into my tone. A little bit of hurt is in there too. If he notices it, because he seems to notice everything, he doesn't say anything. He does actually make his way back into the bedroom, much to my shock, leaving me staring at the spot he had occupied for a moment.
I give a shake of my head to clear it then quickly pad into the kitchen, cluttered with empty pizza boxes and empty bottles of booze. I'll have to clean it, along with the rest of Devil May Cry, and actually start putting it to use once I know Vergil will be able to eat something. Right now I go over to the closest cupboard and pull out one of the dozen containers of crystallized demon blood I have. I also snag a surprisingly clean, if not dusty, glass, giving it a quick rinse inside and out before I head upstairs.
Vergil is perched on the edge of my bed, looking around at the mess that is my room, lips twisted into a scowl of disdain. I hold back a grimace when his gaze shifts onto me and muster up a passable smile. "Some things never change." He says it so softly, maybe not meaning for me to hear it, but I'm not gonna pretend that I didn't hear it.
"A lot has changed, brother. You didn't stick around so you wouldn't know." He doesn't really react to my words nor the anger dripping from them, just stares at me in unbearable silence for a long moment. His scowl disappears, expression blanking, and then he finally looks away from me.
"My apologies, Dante. I should not assume anything." I grit my teeth, biting back a growl, then approach him. He's almost perfectly still, chest barely moving with each breath, head tipped down and gaze on the floor. His attention only returns to me when I pop open the container of demon blood, nose twitching slightly as he sniffs at the air. His brows knit together with confusion as I pluck a sizable chunk from the container and drop it into the empty glass.
"No, you shouldn't," I mutter, setting the container down on the bed beside him. He eyes it with curiosity before deciding to watch me as I open the bag of human blood and carefully pour it into the glass. I only fill it up to a certain point, so that there is an equal amount of each, then hold it out for Vergil to take. "Drink."
His fingers brush against mine as he takes the glass, his skin icy to the touch. I had noticed the chill that seems to emanate from him earlier, hadn't really given it much thought then. He shouldn't be so cold. There should be some form of warmth to him, if only a little, and the fact that there isn't makes my demon stir with a whine in the back of my mind.
I watch as he drains the glass, a look of surprise flitting across his face when he lowers it. "You good for now or do you need more?" He blinks slowly at my question then silently holds the glass out for me to take back. I drop another chunk of crystallized demon blood into it, this one slightly smaller than before, then fill it with an equal amount human blood. "Once you're done we'll see about getting you a hot bath or somethin' and getting you into some clean clothes."
Vergil takes his time with this glass, eyes sliding shut as he seems to savor the mixture of bloods. There really isn't any sort of perceivable change to his condition but a trace of pink seems to dust his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. It's something. Better than nothing. "A bath sounds refreshing," he finally says once he finishes the blood off and lowers the glass.
"Gimme a moment to put the blood up," I say then casually drain the rest of the blood in the bag, not wanting to let it go to waste. A look of surprise flits across my brother's face and he stares at me in shocked silence as I collect the glass and the container of demon blood. "Can't let it go ta waste."
Never would I have ever thought I would see my twin, who had cleaved so tightly to his humanity, partake in something that is distinctly demonic. It is shocking, almost unbelievable, and I can't help but stare after him as he leaves the bedroom to put the blood away. I also can't help but picture the way his expression had twisted with anger as he made his irrefutable accusation. The underlying hurt marked with something more, something buried deep within. Something that I had indelibly caused by my leaving.
I can't even begin to fathom what else there might be to have caused those feelings in my brother and I don't even have long to dwell on it. Dante reappears, a wan smile on his lips that fails to cover up what has already been exposed to me. He approaches me, barely making a sound as he walks, and pulls me onto my feet. I am steadier than before, the blood cocktail having helped at least a little, but Dante slings an arm around me to take the brunt of my weight.
"Seems like the blood did something for ya," my twin notes as he guides me across the bedroom to another door that, when opened, reveals a surprisingly tidy and clean bathroom. His scent hangs thicker here than it does in his bedroom, a sweet, cinnamon-y musk that stirs my instincts and my blood even in my weakened state. "Just lemme know when ya want more. Got enough to hold ya over for a bit."
"How, exactly, did you manage to acquire the human blood?" A cooler filled to the brim with it, no less. Dante doesn't even meet my eyes at the question, head tilted down so that his hair hangs in his eyes while he steers me across the chilly tile floor to the tub. He seems intent on avoiding giving an answer, the lines of his body going rigid. "Dante."
"Don't worry 'bout how I got it. Just worry 'bout gettin' better." He lets go of me long enough to plug up the tub and turn on the hot water before he busies himself with removing my clothes. My twin is intent on doing all of it by himself, batting my hands away the instant I try to aid him, all while keeping his gaze downcast.
It is probably for the best that I let him assume control over everything involving my care. I do not want to, letting him have complete control over me rankles me in a way that makes me want to lash out, but he is not Mundus. He had freed me from that demon's control, from the daily torment that had been visited upon me, and he only wants to help. So I swallow down the urge to claw at him, to bite him and make him submit to me, and I let him help.
"We'll probably have to burn these," Dante murmurs as he deftly undoes the fastenings of my vest and slides it off of my shoulders. It lands half pooled around my feet and is quickly joined by my pants. My gloves are very nearly an afterthought, though they don't join the pile on the floor. How curious, for him to set aside my gloves as if there might be some purpose in keeping them. "You can wear somethin' of mine til we can get you new clothes."
Wearing something that he has worn, something steeped in his scent, is incredibly appealing, enough so that I almost want to tell him to not bother with getting me something new. I am in no position to make demands, however, so I will let him do as he sees fit. This is also part of letting him care for me, another aspect of control that I have already decided to yield to him. There is one thing, however… "What became of my coat?" It is the one thing I had already been stripped of when I had awoken and I hadn't seen it in his bedroom.
"Gonna try an' see if I can salvage it." I find it touching that the one thing he would try to save is my coat when it honestly should join what is to be burned. I don't expect him to give a reason why and trying to pry anything out of him is proving difficult. So I let the point lapse as he checks the water level in the tub before shutting the water off. "Let's get you in that tub now."
The water is hot, scalding if the curls of steam rising from its surface is anything to go by, but I sink down into it with Dante's aid. He hardly waits for me to adjust to the temperature, immediately reaching for the washcloth and soap. I can't suppress the flinch nor the soft hiss I give as he brings the hot, soaked rag across my chest.
"Sorry." Dante says it quietly as he withdraws the washcloth momentarily, letting it cool before he starts washing me. He is gentle, keeping the touch of the cloth light while his mouth twists into a faint frown. "I shouldn't have made the water so hot."
"It's fine as it is." Weakened as I am the temperature is just at the edge of tolerable and unbearable. I've already adjusted to it, however, the heat sinking into my body and making me realize how cold I had been prior. "It feels nice."
"I'm glad." Dante's voice is still subdued, still quiet, but he manages a faint smile. One that doesn't quite reach his eyes. I can't stand the sight of these empty smiles on my brother's face.
"What did I do that hurt you so much?" There has to be more to it than just the fact that I had left and judging from how quickly Dante's expression goes carefully blank I'm almost certain of it.
"You…" Even with his expression woefully blank I can acutely feel the pain rolling off of him. It runs deep, deeper than I can fathom, and I hate that I am the cause of that pain. "Don't worry about it anymore. It's all in the past."
Even though I expected such an answer from him I am still displeased by it. Pressing further won't yield anything except more of this closed-off-ness from Dante. Besides, he had already answered my question earlier. I hadn't stuck around. I can only guess that something terrible had happened after I had left him in the way that I did at Temen-ni-gru, not when he had struck me down at Mallet. It is the only thing that makes the most sense.
"Lemme get your hair and then you're all done." I let him ease me back to wet my hair, my eyes closing with a soft, involuntary purr as his fingers card through it. He spends several minutes massaging the shampoo into my hair and scalp, the quiet in the bathroom broken by my purrs and the occasional sloshing of the water.
I haven't felt so at peace since we were both eight years old, his presence and touch granting me a sense of safety that has eluded me for the past thirty-five years. I only wish that I could perhaps do the same for him, to heal whatever pain I had caused and give him that same sense of peace and safety. To be able to do so I need actual answers, ones that he may never provide me with. If he won't then the woman might.
"C'mon, Verge, time to rinse," Dante finally says as he withdraws his fingers from my hair. He eases me back down and carefully rinses the shampoo lather out, his expression slowly becoming pensive. After he's done and he's helped me sit back up he pauses, his lower lip pulled between his teeth. He looks caught on the edge of wanting to say something, his gaze skittering away from me as he seems to try to work up enough courage to give voice to whatever it might be. "I know you want answers…and that you won't stop until you get those answers. This probably sounds silly cuz it's been twenty-four years, but I need time. Not a whole lot, just a few weeks to get myself sorted out."
Going behind his back is probably the worst thing I could do when he seems to be willing to talk, to give me the answers I want. I put the notion out of my head and clasp a hand around one of his. He doesn't expect it, giving a slight start at the touch, but he doesn't pull away either. "I will wait for however long it takes, Dante."
My brother gives a bitter and broken laugh, his hand tightening around mine. "'fraid I won't get as long as I'd like but you have a right to know, so I'll try not to take too long." He pulls his hand free then reaches into the tub and unseals the drain. "Now let's get you dried off and into something warm."
TW: Mentions of Mpreg
Twenty-four years is a long time to hold on to a memory as painful as that night on top of Temen-ni-gru. Twenty-four years of feeling used and abandoned by my brother who had seen fit to fuck me and leave me on top of that dark tower. Twenty-four years of wallowing in the guilt of not following after him, as stupid as that would have been at the time. I would have been little more than a burden to him had I followed, or maybe the fact that I had been pregnant with his child would have been enough to dissuade him once it had become apparent. Maybe it wouldn't have dissuaded him at all with the threat that Mundus had posed.
How would he react to the knowledge that he had knocked me up? That he has a son for whom I had nearly died several times while carrying him? That I had almost died giving birth to? A son whom I had to give up so that he would be safe? A son who had grown up into a fine young man and who I can barely look at because it hurts knowing that I hadn't been able to raise him.
I know that I shouldn't wait to tell him, that waiting to tell him will only make it harder to speak about it, but I can't bring myself to do it right now. Not so soon after nearly losing him. I selfishly want as much time as I can get with him before the truth comes out. Before it all will undoubtedly go to hell.
It will be worth it, I tell myself as I help him into a pair of soft black sweatpants. They're a little loose on my brother who is without a doubt malnourished. Hopefully once he is more stable I can get some actual food into him but for now he requires a strict diet of blood. He'll catch cold more easily, I muse as I dig through my wardrobe to find a matching black sweat shirt, leaving him sitting over on the bed.
It takes several minutes of digging but I come away with a pair of fuzzy dark grey socks and the black sweat shirt. As I help Vergil with putting it all on I swear that he's purring again, the noise just barely audible. He looks happy underneath the weariness that seems ever present and…he is sniffing at the collar of the sweat shirt, his purr becoming just a bit louder.
"Ya want anything else, Verge?" I decide against commenting on him sniffing at his borrowed clothes, my clothes, and purring like he's a damn cat. He had purred in the bath too while I had been running my fingers through his hair, and I find all of it…inherently pleasing. He had relaxed during the bath and he is still relaxed even now.
He stiffens slightly at my question, his relaxed demeanor immediately vanishing, and then he regards me with a subdued expression before he gives a slight shake of his head. "I am fine." He says it quietly as he looks away from me, his scent twisting with guilt and sadness. "Thank you for your kindness and generosity," he adds before he lays down on the bed with his back to me.
I bite at my tongue as he curls up, hearing the unspoken 'I do not deserve it' loud and clear, and quickly pad out of the bedroom as tears threateningly prickle at my eyes. They start to fall before I can even reach the landing, bringing with them a surge of guilt. As much as I had suffered in that short time after Temen-ni-gru he had suffered for far longer under Mundus, nine years of enslavement with who knows what tortures and vile acts that had been brought down upon him, and then fifteen years after of having to survive in such a state. Yet I had thoughtlessly let myself lash out at him and get angry at him, and all he does is accept it in stride where he usually would have lashed out in turn.
Maybe I hadn't really changed at all. Not with how I had handled him since getting back with the blood.
"Goddamnit!" I clutch at the banister, letting my tears go unchecked, and contemplate turning myself around to go back into the bedroom, to go apologize for my poor reactions and behavior. 'But I deserve it' is what he would probably say. "You don't, you fucking idiot," I whisper harshly to the imagined response, my grip on the banister tightening to the point that the wood creaks.
My brother deserves every bit of kindness I can give him and, most of all, he deserves to be given a chance. He hasn't complained once, though I am certain he did want to complain about the state of my bedroom, which is shocking with how much I have manhandled him. I want to reason that it's because he's in such a weakened state but I know that it must be frustrating for him to some degree. He has always held himself as someone who was always in control, whether it be of himself or the situation at hand, so my usurping that control is no better than what Mundus had done to him.
I wipe at my face, mostly in vain, then head back into my bedroom, taking care to keep my steps as silent as possible, and peer in at him from the doorway. He's still curled up, completely unmoving and his breathing is…indiscernible. My heart aches at the sight of him in such a defensive position—fetal position, my mind supplies—and I'm crossing the distance from the doorframe to my bed before I fully realize it. I tentatively sit down on the edge of the bed, my weight making the mattress dip slightly, and reach out to lightly touch his back.
Vergil stiffens slightly at the touch then shifts enough to raise his head up and twist around to look at me. "Did you… Dante?" Concern colors his voice as he moves to sit up, worry etches into his expression, and there is only a slight hesitation before he wraps his arms around me. "What's wrong, Dante?" He asks softly as he pulls me close.
I immediately tuck my head under his chin and press my nose into his throat, his skin cool to the touch but not as icy as before. "I'm sorry," I whisper fervently, my eyes squeezing shut as more tears slip free.
"Dante…" He tightens his arms around me and rubs his cheek against the top of my head in an effort to comfort me. "You have nothing to apologize for." There is a beat of silence that follows, one that is sullied only by the soft wheezing of each breath that he takes and the faint beating of his heart. It doesn't last for long, my brother loosening his hold to draw back slightly. "Look at me, Dante."
I want to stubbornly shake my head and insist that I do have something to apologize for. Quite a lot to apologize for, in fact. Still, I can't bring myself to ignore his request and lift my head as I open my eyes to tearily look at him.
He shifts his hold on me to bring a hand up and wipe my tears away with several swipes of his thumb, his lips pulled into a slight frown. "I should be the one to apologize, little brother," he says in a soft murmur, his fingers tracing along my jaw before he curls them under my chin. "For the pain that you have suffered in my absence, for being foolish enough to leave you. If I could do it all over again-"
"-you would leave. Maybe not right away…but you still would have gone to try and take Mundus out." Confusion twists his scent at my interruption and he frowns at me, clearly trying to puzzle out why he would still leave. God, I can't keep it from him. I can't be selfish. "I was pregnant with our son."
Dante was… My chest goes painfully tight as I stare at my brother—my frightened and nervous little brother, his eyes wide and still glistening with tears. I slowly shift my fingers from under his chin to trace along his jaw, feeling the delicate tremble that runs through him. "Please…tell me what happened."
He shifts slightly, his gaze lowering from mine for a moment as he contemplates my request. He trembles again, this one far stronger than the prior, before he seems to steel himself and return his gaze to mine. "At first I didn't know what was going on but I knew that something was up. I was stuck in my demon form and I craved blood constantly…" Several more tears fall and he inhales shakily, his gaze dimming as he speaks, his voice low. "I started with demon blood but it wasn't enough… One week and three days after you had fallen into the Underworld I almost died."
My heart seems to go still for several beats. It feels like all of the air has been knocked out of me. Panic claws through me—consumes me—even though Dante is right in front of me, alive and as well as he can be. I draw him back to me, circling my arms around him as tight as I can manage, and bury my nose in his hair to draw in his scent.
"Hey now…" Dante doesn't resist. He doesn't try to pull away. Instead he nuzzles at my jaw and neck with a soft coo that is meant to reassure me. It does little to soothe the edges of my panic, to pierce through it. "I'm okay, Vergil. I'm right here and I'm okay."
Okay. Okay. He is clearly not okay and it is my fault. Everything he has suffered is my fault. I had never wanted to truly hurt him—only for him to become strong enough to be able to take care of himself had I failed. Not only had I failed but I had left my baby brother in a state that had nearly been his undoing.
I don't need to hear any more to piece it all together. He had needed my blood, my energy, to sustain himself and our child. Our son. There was no true substitute for my blood, only a mixture that paled in comparison. How long had it taken him to even figure it out? How many times had he nearly died? One time was already a time too many but I know that it was more.
"You should hate me." The words almost come out of their own volition, my panic twisting into something else. Loathing. For my actions. Towards myself. I have no right to touch him. I do not deserve the kindness-
"Stop it!" Pain blossoms through my left cheek, shocking me out of the downward spiral my thoughts and feelings had taken. Dante has pulled back from me, a tearful and angry scowl marring his face as he stares at me, the hand he had struck me with still held aloft. It drops back down to his lap after a few seconds where he balls it into a fist, his knuckles going white. "You couldn't have known that I was in heat, that I would get pregnant, so just stop it! Yeah, it was fucking awful to go through that and, yeah, I was mad at you for the longest time because it felt like you had used me and abandoned me but I can't hate you for any of it. I need you, goddamnit! I can't keep doing this without you, Verge, I just can't…"
I don't want to contemplate what Dante means by that last part—I don't want to think that my little brother had given up on living but that is plainly the case. Dante had given up on living and it's-
"Stop that!" Dante commands sharply, as if he can read my thoughts. For a second it seems as if he might hit me again but instead he closes the gap between us to slot his head under my chin. "Stop being an idiot and hold me," he whispers into my neck as his body quakes.
I slowly wrap my arms around Dante once more and close my eyes as I let my chin rest on the top of his head. It takes several minutes for Dante's trembling to cease, during which I absently rub small circles on his lower back while I try to contain my thoughts for his sake. The task isn't an easy one, not when I feel like he would be better off without me but it isn't about how I feel. This is about Dante and how he feels, and since he has made his feelings clear on the matter I will do everything within my power to abide by his feelings.
I swear that Vergil is sometimes so smart he crosses back over to being dumb. His tendency to overthink things can be blamed for that, mostly, but then there's the issue of communication or the lack thereof. That is on both of us if I'm going to be completely honest—we were both just so inherently bad at talking that we avoided it—but not anymore. I just can't anymore.
"Forgive me for being so foolish, little brother," Vergil murmurs after a few minutes, a hand resting at the small of my back. He shifts slightly, drawing back just enough to press his lips against my hair line then he rubs his jaw against my temple. "I had thought that you would be better off without me but that is clearly not the case."
"I should kick your ass for being such an idiot," I mutter into Vergil's neck without any heat to my voice.
"And risk sending me to my grave, little brother?" Vergil quips in a near playful tone.
It shouldn't be funny, not with how close he actually is to dying, but it manages to draw a small chuckle from me. "You're horrible."
"Indeed I am." Vergil presses another kiss to my hairline then draws back to look down at me, his expression marked by exhaustion. "I've been a horrible older brother and an absolutely terrible mate and yet you still want me around."
"Idiot. I said that I-"
"Need me, yes, my apologies." Vergil brings a hand up and gently brushes his fingertips against my jaw. "Even though we never properly bonded as mates…" He traces his fingers down along my neck then follows the contour of my clavicle over my shirt, pausing just as he reaches my sternum. "Your heart is already set."
"I'm pretty sure my heart was already set on you even before then," I confess softly, warmth suffusing my cheeks. "Dunno if it's because of what we are, I just always knew that you are the one I want to be with."
Vergil goes quiet for a long moment, his fingers loosely curling into the fabric of my shirt before he brings his hand back up to cradle my jaw. He slowly caresses my cheek with his thumb, a question dancing in his eyes as he holds my gaze with his own. The silence stretches on between us longer than I would like as he settles on whether he wants to ask whatever it is he intends to ask me or not, to the point that I'm about prod him for his question when he finally asks, "May I kiss you?"
At first I'm in disbelief that Vergil even feels the need to ask for permission to kiss me but then it makes sense given that he probably thinks he doesn't even deserve to. As much as I want to chide him for that line of thought it won't change what he believes and it's not worth arguing over right now. It's better if I just answer him instead. "Yes."
Vergil hesitates slightly, sweeping his thumb across my cheek again, before he leans in and gently presses his lips to mine. The kiss…it's simple. It's sweet. It's perfect.
I wind my arms around his neck and return the kiss, careful to keep the contact chaste. It's all I need at the moment, this simplicity, and contentment fills me for the first time in decades.